Sunday 10 July 2016

Just One Week in Norway - The Preparations

Just One Week has been an orphan of the storm since we gave up the fishing on the Findhorn at Tomatin in 2013.  We tried the Dee - two blank spring weeks in 2014 & 15 - and the Deveron in September 2015, but we failed to find a new home that recaptured the magic.  Then last autumn my wife suggested that I should treat myself and go to Norway, and a plan started to take shape.  My regular partners, John and Patrick, were enthusiastic recruits.  By Christmas I had booked fishing, accommodation, flights and hire car, and the clock was ticking towards a new adventure.

Even after 60 seasons' fishing my capacity for anticipation and excitement remains undimmed.  The tank aerial rod, wooden reel, cotton line, aertex shirt, twill shorts and rubber sandals are long gone, but the little boy's character is unchanged and comes to the fore whenever fishing is in prospect.  I think this anticipation is all part of the pleasure: it's how I make the joy of a day's fishing last a week and a week's fishing fill a whole year.

Gaulfossen rapids in moderate flow
(Photo - Jan Erik Granbo)

The Gaula with its crystal water and reputation for big fish is enough to get anyone's anticipation levels up a notch or three.  Our destination is the Gaula Fly Fishing Friends water above Storen and the Gaulfossen cascade, which looks absolutely stunning.  Instead of scanning the Vanishing Rain of Inverness I am currently fixated on the aviation weather forecasts for mid-Norway and the water flow through the Gaulfossen, towards our arrival on 15th July.

Part of the fun has been the research - eliciting advice on SFF, email exchanges with locals, searching the web and watching the Jan Erik Granbo DVD (old boys' film night with pizza and Chilean red).  Everyone has been extraordinarily helpful and enthusiastic.  Much of the advice has been invaluable in highlighting the differences between UK and Norwegian conditions and practices.  A critical part of the preparation has been selecting and ordering the flies.  After studying Granbo's recommended patterns on his website and a lengthy conversation with Peter Nightingale of classic I arrived at a shortlist, which you see in immaculately tied finished form below.  If you go into the fly catalogues there are dozens of 'Norway' patterns, which could tempt you to spend a lot of money covering all the possibilities whilst creating ample scope for confusion and indecision.  I've always fished with a narrow range of patterns and have long since given up worrying about precise selection - a pointless activity in my view - which is how I arrived at this generic selection.

Green, Black and Gold, which is a bolder tying than the conventional Green Highlander.  This is a #6, which the locals consider an average summer low water fly size.  Bearing in mind the clarity of the water the recommended fly sizes, up to 2 steps bigger than my normal, came as a surprise.  Clearly the MCX Fisher Walking to the Water calculator needs re-calibration for Scandinavia.

Green and Grey, which has less contrast in the water than its Black cousin above.

Yellow and Grey

Black, which contains some red sparkly bits.  I'm not sure what they do for the fish, but they amuse the tyer and angler alike.

The faithful MCX Dark (this example interpreted and tied by Martyn Roberts) is coming on the adventure.  I wouldn't leave home without it and will be interested to see whether it maintains its impressive catch rate.

MCX Light (by Peter Nightingale) has to come along too.  Peter's interpretation has slightly more yellow than the original, and as it's reasonably close to a couple of Norwegian patterns it seemed sensible to include this successful fly.

Classic Cascade, because I'd feel insecure without some examples of what was for a decade my 'go to' fly before the creation of the MCX.

This is my complete Norway doubles box, which by the standards of most salmon fishermen is somewhere between austere and ascetic.  I think there's enough for a week.  Anyway, if all the green ones get munched or lost to large rocks, then I'll have to get in the car and drive down to Storen to get something similar.  Not shown, but inserted after the photo is a small collection of floating bombers: I still have an ambition to catch a salmon on a dry fly.

Pocket fly box

The tube fly box is compact, and to be frank, contains far more than I'll need.  My lack of experience led me to pack more types and thus take a step up from my normal 12 fly Snowbee micro-box (which is coming on the trip).  Baby tubes and small hitches are on the left; conventional tubes and cone heads fill the middle; and the right is occupied by Sunrays for stripping and hitching.  The strange grey things in the middle are experimental 'stealth' tube flies, deliberately designed for low observability (i.e. the exact opposite of most salmon flies). Along the way I received some great advice on setting up the Sunrays with the hook set 3-5cm further back from the end of the tube, which places it at the centre of the fly's visible mass in order to reduce the proportion of failed takes.

Another bit of vital advice concerned leader strength.  In UK I fish with 19lbs in the spring and 15 lbs in the summer and autumn.  The Norwegian norm is twice the strength, primarily to give redundancy to cope with the effects of abrasion by the rocks.  As one respondent helpfully pointed out, 0.1mm of abrasion reduces 15lbs fluorocarbon to 6lbs breaking strain, and like it or not, you can't avoid the rocks in Norway and they've got seriously rough surfaces.  This gives a leader structure with the top 2 feet of 40lbs to reduce the cutting of the nylon into the loop at the end of the head (after 40 minutes battle with the Beast of Wensleydale the loop was not a pretty sight); and then 10-12 feet of 30lbs Seaguar.  Apparently Norwegian fish are untroubled by this muscularity, but if I need to use small flies I shall either go down to 23lbs for the last 18 inches or change the terminal knot to increase the fly's freedom of movement.  For hitching and surface stripping I have some reinforced braided leaders, which will be finished with a short length of fluorocarbon.  Too much fluorocarbon will pull a small tube under, thereby destroying its capacity to create the essential V-wake on the surface.

Once I'd written down, sorted and digested all the advice, it was time to move on to the methodical preparation of reels and lines, and finally the full kit check.  The best way of ensuring that you don't leave anything behind is to lay it all out; check it against a list; stow it in a single box; and then don't touch it again until it's time to pack.  It's mental conditioning based on an earlier professional life in which survival depended on having the essentials: a place for everything, and everything in its place.  That's my excuse: in truth I followed the same practice in childhood, and I find the process rather satisfying (and suspect that many other anglers do too).

Three rods: 13' 8" Cult, 13' MAG and 10' Nite Catapult single hander.   Why have I chosen 100% Vision?  Just out of shot were 2 Hardys and a Chas Burns sobbing inconsolably in their tubes, whilst the incredulity of my father and grandfather weighed heavy upon me.  For them fishing and Hardy were synonymous.  My favour of Vision kit is not based on any financial or professional relationship, but having a friendly local dealer does help their sales.  For me it's all about feel: I've not met another brand whose rods commune with me in the same way whilst casting, and that feel engenders a confidence that transcends the limitations of my technique.  As I described in an earlier post, it took me 2 years to decide on the MAG, so I'm certainly open minded.  The 10' Nite replaced an elderly 9' 6" Hardy at a bargain price in a clearance sale last year: I'm hoping that it will take its first fish in Norway with a surface fly.  With clear water at lower levels floaters and hitches are essential options that I get all too little opportunity to practice in UK.

Four reels - three and a spare - comprise the Loop Evotec and Lamson Guru, the big Rulla, and the small Rulla, which replaced an antique BFR Modula that lacked the backing capacity to meet the demands of Norway.  The spare is the big Rulla, which works well on either the Cult or the MAG.

The rest is fairly self-explanatory: 4 pocket fly boxes (I'll only carry two, the red and grey); two Guideline sinking heads (F/I/S1 & S1/2/4); 3 spare floaters (Rio Scandi & AFS and a #8 Vision Ace); hooks (ultra-strong #6 doubles and lightweight strong Partridge singles for hitching); Seaguar in 4 breaking strains (40, 32, 23, 19); sink tips in the wallet; two pairs of RayBan Polaroids (green and orange); gloves (the night temperature can sink to 8 degrees); wader and line repair kit; joint tape; and the standard jacket inventory of camera, tape measure, thermometer, priest, floatant, mitten clamps, scissors, nippers and knot glue.  You will also spot the spare wading boot laces and stick ferrule.  Everything except the rods fits in a single transit box with the boots on top.  I'm ready and raring to go.


  1. Have a fantastic trip...tight lines

    1. Dave,
      thank you: one way or another you'll be able to read about it on here.

  2. I'm lucky to have Swedish friends who are organising a trip to the River Laerdal in two weeks time. I fly out on the 27th July and return on the 5th August. I will follow your posts with interest.

    1. Alan,
      thank you: I look forward to hearing about your trip.

  3. Michael, is that a selfie stick I can see?! Below left of the priest?

    Also, what knot/joint glue do you use? It looks like zap-a-gap and knot sense? Do you use the zap-a-gap for knots and the other for flexible joins?

    1. Charles,
      the selfie stick is the means by which I take most of my underwater photos: I haven't yet used it on myself!
      I use Knot Sense on all my salmon leader knots - loops, joins and the Tucked Blood at the hook - because it gives security whilst allowing essential flexibility. You can also shape the blob to get a bit of streamlining. However, I don't use it on trout tackle as the blob tends to be a bit big. Zap a Gap is part of my tool kit and used for quick repairs; knots involving porous lines like backing; and ultra-light work.

  4. Hope you have a great time. Just back from the Gaula - very low water at the moment but holding pools above Gaulfossen are full of fish as they have been able to run for the last month due to the low flow. Most fish caught in the pool heads on small flies and floating/intermediate tips.
    Tight lines and screaming reels

  5. Andrew,
    many thanks for the update and the tips.